Hungarian GP Qualifying: George Russell takes surprise pole for Mercedes ahead of Ferraris

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George Russell incredibly outpaces both Ferraris to snatch pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix

George Russell incredibly outpaces both Ferraris to snatch pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix

George Russell stunned Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc to take the first pole position of his Formula One career at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Sainz looked to have beaten Ferrari team-mate Leclerc to pole, but Russell – behind them on track – came through to snatch a pole position that had looked hugely unlikely.

Meanwhile, Mercedes struggled through all three of the weekend’s practice sessions.

World Championship leader Max Verstappen was 10th after a power issue caused him to abort his final attempt at a flying lap, while Red Bull’s misery was compounded by a Q2 exit for Sergio Perez, who will start 11th.

Lando Norris secured a place on the second row for McLaren ahead of the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage seventh as a DRS problem saw him also abort his final flying lap.

Watch on board as Russell takes his first ever pole in F1.

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Watch on board as Russell takes his first ever pole in F1.

Watch on board as Russell takes his first ever pole in F1.

The surprise grid sets up a potentially thrilling race on Sunday. Russell will be seeking his first F1 victory. Ferrari are looking to reduce the 63-point lead held by Verstappen – who will no doubt have designs on working his way back through the field.

“I am over the moon, absolutely buzzing,” Russell said.

“I mean, yesterday was arguably our worst Friday of the season and we worked so hard and we didn’t know what direction to go in.”

Heavy rain and thunderstorms had been forecast for all of Saturday, but after a wet final practice, the rain stayed away for qualifying.

Given the only dry running teams had done was in intense Budapest sunshine on Friday, the dry yet cool conditions for qualifying meant there was a lot of mystery going into Saturday afternoon’s shootout.

Ferrari had looked quicker than Red Bull – and all the other cars – throughout practice, but it was Mercedes who topped the timesheet with Hamilton ahead of Russell in Q1, and Verstappen fastest in Q2.

Anthony Davidson analyzes George Russell and Carlos Sainz's fastest laps in qualifying, which saw the Mercedes driver take pole position.

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Anthony Davidson analyzes George Russell and Carlos Sainz’s fastest laps in qualifying, which saw the Mercedes driver take pole position.

Anthony Davidson analyzes George Russell and Carlos Sainz’s fastest laps in qualifying, which saw the Mercedes driver take pole position.

However, when it was going time in Q3, Ferrari seemed to find their pace, with Sainz leading Leclerc after the first runs of two runs in the final 12 minutes.

That seemed to still be the case as Sainz edged out Leclerc on the second run, but Russell then delivered the perfect lap to secure his team’s first pole position of what has been a hugely challenging season.

Mercedes’ race pace has gradually improved throughout the season, with last weekend’s French GP bringing their first double podium of the season, and while Ferrari will be confident of overhauling the Brit, a first win of the season for Silver Arrows cannot be ruled out.

“We are going to be absolutely going for it,” Russell added. “But either way that was a special day, no doubt.”

Sunday’s race is live on Sky Sports F1 at 2pm, with build-up from 12.30pm.

Hungarian GP Qualifying: Top 10
1) George Russell, Mercedes
2) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
6) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
7) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
8) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
10) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

What happened to Verstappen and Hamilton?

Last year’s World Championship rivals were left with similar frustrations at the end of the session, both feeling that they could have ended significantly higher up the grid.

Verstappen appeared to have found his best pace of the weekend in the early stages of qualifying, but faltered with his first flying lap in Q3, which was only good enough for seventh at that point.

That left him with no room for error on the second run, but it was a car rather than a driver that failed Red Bull on this occasion.

Max Verstappen says that he thinks the power issue he suffered with in Q3 is not serious.

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Max Verstappen says that he thinks the power issue he suffered with in Q3 is not serious.

Max Verstappen says that he thinks the power issue he suffered with in Q3 is not serious.

The Dutchman reported on his out-lap that he was suffering a power issue, and the team were unable to fix it in time for him to attempt another full-speed effort.

Verstappen said: “I don’t think it’s a big issue but something we couldn’t solve on track. It’s very unfortunate.

“The turnaround from yesterday was amazing. In a way that’s about today, we understood positive what went wrong the car was so much better today in terms of handling on a track that doesn’t really suit us”

Hamilton and Russell had appeared closely matched throughout the weekend, so when Russell crossed the line to take provisional pole, attention naturally turned to what the seven-time world champion was going to do.

Lewis Hamilton suffered a DRS issue during qualifying but conferred George Russell on his maiden F1 pole.

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Lewis Hamilton suffered a DRS issue during qualifying but conferred George Russell on his maiden F1 pole.

Lewis Hamilton suffered a DRS issue during qualifying but conferred George Russell on his maiden F1 pole.

But by that point, he had aborted his lap due to a DRS failure.

“I tried to open the DRS and it wouldn’t open so that was a bit unfortunate,” Hamilton explained.

“I was feeling great, pole or front row was definitely there for sure. It would have been awesome to get a front row for the team but these things happen.

“Congratulations to George, he did an amazing job and that is a great result for the team. Given all that we have gone through, that is huge so I am really happy for everyone.”

Perez makes surprise Q2 exit

Missing from the exhilarating drama of Q3 was the second Red Bull of Perez, who made a surprise Q2 exit after a strange series of events.

The Mexican lost his time from his first run of the session after being adjudged to have breached track limits, only for the lap to then be re-instated.

While the lap wouldn’t have been good enough to get him through in any case, it appeared to cause confusion at Red Bull, and when he returned to the track for another run he was unable to approve sufficiently, complaining of being held up by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Big surprise as Sergio Perez fails to make it through to Q3.

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Big surprise as Sergio Perez fails to make it through to Q3.

Big surprise as Sergio Perez fails to make it through to Q3.

Perez then watched from the garage as he was relegated to 11th in the final stages, leaving him to miss out on Q3 for just the second time this season.

“It was very unfortunate because I lost a few tenths,” Perez said. “I missed out on Q3 by a few hundredths (of a second)”. Going into Turn 2 I lost a lot with Kevin.”

It wasn’t a great day for Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri either, with both of their cars joining the Williams cars and Sebastian Vettel in making a Q1 exit.

Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly both don't make it through to Q2 in Hungary.

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Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly both don’t make it through to Q2 in Hungary.

Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly both don’t make it through to Q2 in Hungary.

It compounded a tough afternoon for Vettel, who announced on Thursday that he will retire from the sport at the end of the season.

The four-time world championed his Aston Martin in final practice, leaving his team needing to work right up until moments before the start of the crash of qualifying to get the car ready.

However, their work turned out to be largely in vain, as the German made a Q1 exit for the fourth time in five races.

Hungarian GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) George Russell Mercedes 1:17.377
2) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.044
3) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.190
4) Lando Norris McLaren +0.392
5) Esteban Ocon Alpine +0.641
6) Fernando Alonso Alpine +0.701
7) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.765
8) Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +0.780
9) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.002
10) Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.446
Out in Q2
11) Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:18.516
12) Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:18.573
13) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:18.825
14) Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:19.137
15) Mick Schumacher Haas 1:19.164
Out in Q1
16) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:19.240
17) Alex Albon Williams 1:19.256
18) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:19.273
19) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:19.527
20) Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:19.570

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